Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed on Thursday at the Democrat presidential debate that he never praised segregationists.
“I did not praise racists,” Biden said after a testy back and forth with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over previous remarks he made about segregationist Democrats.
The statement is false.
This month Biden elicited widespread controversy after praising the “civility” of the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmdage (D-GA) at a fundraiser in New York City. Biden mentioned the two men while touting his ability to form “consensus,” but he did not express what they were able to accomplish together.
“Well guess what?” the former vice president continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
The remarks quickly drew controversy as both men were segregationists that spent their careers fighting against civil rights and integration.
Eastland, whom Biden has praised as a friend and mentor, was called the “voice of the white South” for his support of Jim Crow and propensity for referring to African Americans as “an inferior race.” Talmadge, who served as governor of Georgia before being elected to the Senate, was another fierce opponent of civil rights and integration. In the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down segregation in public schools, Talmadge promised to do everything in his power to protect “separation of the races.”
That was not the only instance when Biden praised avowed segregationists. Last week, Breitbart News reported on a speech Biden gave on the floor of the Senate praising the late-Sen. John Stennis (D-MS) upon his retirement in 1988.
“To think that I would be one day on the floor of the United States Senates, being paid such accolades by such a man of character and courage as John Stennis is beyond my wildest dreams,” Biden said. “And I mean that sincerely.”
Stennis, who served in the Senate from 1947 to 1989, was an ardent segregationist well-known for his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later attempts to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.
When pressed on the comments, Biden stood defiant saying there was no need for him to apologize.